With the changing of the leaves, the nip of Jack Frost and the end of Hell's Kitchen: Season 2
, it can only mean one thing -- time to program the DVR for a fall of butt numbing new shows. In the time honored throw-spaghetti-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks tradition of network television, we've been bombarded with new choices. This season, I've hitched my horse to two series and (luckily for me) I think they're gonna stick -- Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
and Friday Night Lights
. I recommend both. Studio 60
got off to a slow start, but the last two episodes have been great television about making media in Dubya America. Of course, being that it's written by Aaron Sorkin (of West Wing and An American President fame), conservative watchdogs are both watching and dogging. L. Brent Bozell III
, head of the always cheery Parent's Television Council, wrote this
for the innocuous-sounding, but far-right leaning townhall.com:
The show goes behind the scenes of a fictional sketch-comedy program resembling "Saturday Night Live" at a fictional network called UBS. The censors at UBS have scratched a skit titled "Crazy Christians," and now all hell will break loose. We're never shown the skit, but we're told repeatedly that it's demonstrably hilarious.
Sorkin uses his first script to throw sharp knives and rusty razors at the Americans who've lobbied for less filthy television. The show begins with an improbable "standards and practices" censor telling the producer of the fictional "SNL" that he can't run "Crazy Christians" because "what do you want me to say to the 50 million people who are gonna go out of their minds as soon as it airs?" The producer cracks wise: "Well, first of all, you can tell 'em we average 9 million households, so at least 41 million of them are full of crap. Second, you can tell 'em that living where there's free speech means sometimes you're gonna get offended."
Wow. That was a wise crack. What's the Moral Majority's response?
But Hollywood writers know that in a free-speech society, people are free to denounce Hollywood's shows when they are vile and disgusting.
Let's remember, we are talking about a show about a fake comedy show, but if you read it carefully, he doesn't seem to be arguing for the "Crazy Christians" skit to be cut. He instead argues that it's those "50 million" morality-loving Christian's God-given right to call and complain. And, for them to call and complain, the skit would have had to run. He actually seems to want a patently Christian bashing skit to run -- just so the PTC could be mobilized and try to knock Hollywood down another rung (a la Janet Jackson -- they loved what that shit accomplished!).
But that's really all he says about what TV should or shouldn't air. Instead he begins down this path about what morals entertainment should preach:
There's also a remarkable double standard at work here. While denouncing the free-speech rights of "crazy Christians," Hollywood exercises its own restrictions, zealously avoiding on camera the many social taboos -- smoking cigarettes, say -- to which it subscribes.
I ask you to watch the episode and see any place where the "free speech right" of anyone (friend or foe) was put in jeopardy.
What Hollywood likes is having the almighty power to offend -- to "challenge" society, as they like to describe it -- freely. But only some people are sought out for offending. For every supposedly crazy parent who worries about sex, violence and smutty talk on TV, perhaps there's another supposedly crazy parent who worries about different offenses, such as Twinkie commercials or scenes with cool, beautiful people smoking cigarettes.
Huhn? The only thing I can read into that is that organized religion and Twinkies are both sugary treats to be avoided...and maybe the talking-picture-box will make fun of you for falling for either of them too hard. (And, let me add in here, that the Christian character on Studio 60 is the most realistic portrayal of a believer I've seen on television, ever.)
The sum it up, you can tell how neutered Bozell feels in this piece -- he's wishing they'd shown "Crazy Christians" so bad. He's wishing they'd actually slurred Jesus. He's wishing the marketplace was filled with more than just intellectual ideas -- he wishing there was an infraction he could latch onto. Unfortunately for him, Sorkin's too smart for that.